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Public warned not to feed horses as government updates the countryside code

The British Horse Society (BHS) is warning the public not to feed horses, after cases of equine illness, injury and deaths during the coronavirus lockdown, while the countryside code has been updated.

H&H has reported on a number of such cases, in which the actions of people out for their allotted exercise has had serious and even fatal consequences.

“The BHS is urging members of the public not to feed horses in fields as this can cause serious illness and be potentially life-threatening,” said BHS director of welfare Alan Hiscox.

“We believe many people act with no malicious intent and are simply unaware of the risks that certain foods or grass cuttings can pose to horses. We encourage horse owners to download signs the BHS has produced warning the public not to feed their horses.

“The greater the awareness of the issue, the more likely people are to change their behaviour in future.”

The BHS is offering the following advice to the public:

Although feeding horses may seem harmless, it is important not to, for the following reasons:

Any type of food, grass cuttings or any other plants can cause horses to become extremely unwell or even kill them

Fighting between horses could break out and cause an injury

Horses may mistake your fingers for food and accidentally nip them

If you cross land with a right of way where horses are kept, the above points will be applicable but also ensure you:

Leave gates and property as you find them

Keep to the right of way

Take your litter home

Keep your dog on a lead and bag and bin your dog’s mess

Give horses lots of a space and avoid coming between mothers and their young

If you see a horse in distress, alert the nearest farm/yard or check for a sign with the owner’s details on it

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The warning comes as the government has updated its countryside code.

Visitors are asked to respect other people and protect the natural environment while they enjoy the outdoors, with advice including “leave no trace of your visit” and “leave gates and property as you find them”.

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